Amaretto Sour, Amaretto Martini, Amaretto on the rocks…we've all seen that cheesy ad on TV for Amaretto where a group of glamorous Europeans are in a bar, coincidently all ordering Amaretto-based drinks. Stranger still is that the bar seems only equipped with the same liquor.
Amaretto (literally meaning "a little bitter" in Italian) has a long and romantic history dating back to 16th Century Italy. Although the drink is now one of the most famous and popular sweet liqueurs, importation to the United States did not occur until the 1960's. The almond and apricot flavored cordial quickly became a hit in cocktails and in food. By the 1980's, it was second in sales only to Kahlúa. The Italian brand Disaronno Amaretto is the most famous but France makes a similar liqueur called crème d'amandes.
In the 1500’s, a Saronno church commissioned artist Leonardo Da Vinci and student Bernardino Luini to paint their sanctuary with frescoes. As the church was dedicated to the Virgin Mary, Luini needed to depict the Madonna, but was in need of a model to pose for him. He found his inspiration in a young widowed innkeeper, who also became his lover. Out of gratitude and affection, the woman wished to give him a gift so she steeped apricot kernels in brandy and presented the resulting concoction to him. This complex deep brown liqueur is now made from almond extract along with apricot stones and seeds, steeped in brandy and sweetened with sugar syrup. It is sweet, with intense almond flavors and is best used in small amounts.
Here is a selection of Amaretto recipes for you to try (glamorous European entourage optional):
Amaretto Sour – Put several cubes of fresh ice into a Boston shaker. Pour in 3 measures of Amaretto, 1 measure of freshly squeezed lemon juice and a dash or two of simple syrup. Shake vigorously and pour into a rocks glass. You may need to adjust the amount of lemon juice or syrup depending on the sweetness of the lemon. Sour mix is forbidden in all Midweek Libations recipes! Garnish with a maraschino cherry and a swizzle stick. Traditionalists may add egg white for an authentic ‘sour’.
Amaretto Martini – Fill a Boston shaker with ice and pour in 3 measures of good quality vodka and 1 measure of Amaretto. Stir slowly until well mixed and ice cold. Strain into a chilled Martini glass and drop one roasted almond into the glass. (Note: make sure the almond is not salted).
Amaretto on the Rocks – No instruction necessary here!
The Godfather – Fill a rocks glass with plenty of ice. Pour in 1 measure of Amaretto and 2 measures of your favorite Scotch. Stir and garnish with your best Brando impression.
French Connection – Fill a Boston shaker with plenty of ice. Pour in 2 measures of Amaretto and 2 measures of Cognac. Stir vigorously and strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with a small Amaretti biscuit (available from fine food marts and Italian markets) on the side.